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Psalm 23 - Week 3

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INITIAL THOUGHTS

VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH
The tension here is palabale
David talks about God who takes him besides still waters and restores his soul
He talks about God who leads him in paths of righteousness
But in alignment with that thought, David simultaneously understands that he is walking through the valley of the shadow of death (do study into this concept)
Often, life is lived in tension. It is not a matter of life’s good moments vs. life’s bad moments. It is lived in the space of simutaneously being still waters and the valley of the shadow of death
Green pastures and Valley of Shadow
We live in the tension of both. God can be leading me in peaceful places while I still am walking through dark moments
Notice it is the shadow of death not death itself
Death casts it shadow making it appear that it is there
But a shadow is not the same as the thing being there
Often, when we walk through the shadow of death, we have the appearance of death without the actuality of it
FEAR
The key work in verse 4 is the word FEAR
Fear is often the result of walk through dark places
It is fear that the enemy strives for us to live in a place of
Nearly all things we struggle with are rooted in fear
Which is why it is so critical that formation works in a way that moves us from a place of fear to a place of love
Perfect love casts out all fear
God loves us perfectly. The acceptance of that love is what would cast out our fear
You cannot chose when you feel fear but you can chose when to follow fear
Following fear is often what causes to live in a place that is not pleasing to God
YOU ARE WITH ME
The immediate source of comfort for David is that God is with him
God’s presence is behind, before him, within him, around him
There’s a peace that casts out fear when perfect love of God is present
Theo and Peterson often want to be held when they are scared
Our presence trumps the fear of the unknown
So does God’s presence with us
“Immanuel” means God with us
God came in the form of Jesus in order to participate in life with us. He did not desire for us to be alone.
David’s peace comes in the fact that he is not alone
The belief that one is alone is often the breeding ground for…
YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF, THEY COMFORT ME
There is a comfort in the tool God uses to direct and guide
Yet, the rod and the staff are not always comfortable
You would not look at it the way a child looks at a toy they love
So why is this griming, overused stick a comfort
The rod and the staff were tools to direct and guide
Today, the rod and staff are spiritual practices, disciplines, actions that guide us in the direction God has for us
THIS IS WHERE THERE IS A LEARNED SURRENDER UPON THE SHEPHERD
YOU PREPARE A TABLE BEFORE ME
Such an odd picture, you would think that God would work to pull the person away from the enemy. Let me get you out of this situation.
If your enemy is here, surely you should not stay
But God shows his strength, his kingships, his werewithal to not run in fear but for us to commune with him at the table in the midst of the enemy
(A table meaning provision)
Many gospel messages are little more than escapism
Get out of this bad bad world
But God’s picture of his kingdom is that he sets it up in the midst of the enemy place
The kingdom come narrative is that he enters into darkness to establish his kingdom
He brings the light in the midst of the darkness
Which means that we do not believe the gospel to escape one day
We believe the Gospel because we believe, invite, and participate in God’s kingdom coming to earth right now
YOU ANOINT MY HEAD WITH OIL
I sign of chosenness - I read this and thought about my head being anointed and I believe it is but what if this is a picture of Jesus
Jesus anointed as priest and as king
*****
COMMENTARY
v.4 It is the task of the shepherd to lead the sheep to and from the sheepfold
The language used is that of a dark ravine
Since shepherds would not have taken their sheep out at night, one can assume that they are in this deep dark ravine that light is unable to hit
But even in that enviornment where it is difficult to see, difficult to grab one’s bearings, difficult to understand how to mange your way out, the sheep does not fear evil
v.4 Better translation for valley of shadow of death is deep darkness (Hebrew - salmawet)
The word used in different parts of the Psalms means a place of terror, a place of deep gloom, deep distress, and actually extreme danger

The word itself does not necessarily mean death; but by definition a dark ravine is a dangerous place

The word translated evil means here danger, harm, injury

Which means we can consider this even when it is not as dramatic as death
What are those times you are walking through deep darkness?
How do you make sense of the world around you when you cannot see to the other side
v.4 You are with me is a covenental promise - I will never leave you or forsake
v.4 The rod and the staff fend of predators and to goad the sheep in the right direction towards provision
v.4 The shepherd language changes. It shifts from He to You. At this point of danger, the shepherd is not longer distant, ahead, but is now intimate and alongside to escort. It shifts from 3rd person to 1st. It is someone he speaks of now intimately
The rod - Defense - The shepherd is a defender of the sheep
the Staff - Control - The shepherd is a leader of the sheep
The staff - discipline is security
THE SHEPHERD FULLY EQUIPPED TO PROTECT THE SHEEP. HE LACKS NOTHING.
v.5 THE LORD IS MY HOST
A banquet hall where a gracious host provides lavish hospitality
Shifts from a shepherd metaphor to the host metaphor
Imagine the scene

a witness to infinite resources in the worst of situations

A table laid out filled with food, bread, drink
We are welcomed into a tent or a home
We are anointed with oil and welcomed as equals
The oil refreshes and wipes away dust and grime
A practice of welcoming someone as an honored guest
It is difficult to imagine that we in all our darkness are invited as honored guests by YHWH
Two kinds of oil
One is used to anoint to office - Many of us have heard of priests being anointed into their office of priesthood
The other is olive oil use on the forehead as a sort of welcoming
It connotes wealth, generosity, and care of the host to promote the renewal, joy, healing, of his weary and wounded guests
Sit on the word renewal
It is a healing agent

In a climate where dry skin was a problem, especially for travelers, anointing with oil was a refreshment

This part of the reason that you do not have to fix your life before coming to God. Rather, you accept the invitation to the table and God gives you the healing agent as you commune with him
As strangers, we feel so honored
This is a place of comfort and peace
We recline and eat
The host keeps filling our cup until it overflows
A gesture of generosity
There are different phrases using the word cup in the bible
Ps. 116:13 - Talks about a cup of salvation
1 Cor. 10:16 - Talks about a cup of blessing
There’s also passages discussing cups of judgment
By the context of this passage, the cup here is connected with a cup of blessing and salvation
What is overflowing in this cup — Blessing and Salvation
His blessing of provision, his blessing of protection, his blessing of invitation, his blessing of hospitality, his blessing of welcoming, his blessing of peace — to the degree that is now overflowing the cup

In view of the table and the oil David knew that his lot in life (his cup) was abundant blessing from the Lord.

We’re no longer sheep, we are guests
Some scholars believe David is making fun of the enemy because they cannot be touched.
Have you ever seen a child make fun of someone and then hide behind their parent
Imagine David in a similar posture — he is taunting the enemy because is utterly protected
Many scholars believe that enemies would have looked on helplessly,
We miss the battle scene, but the enemy is sitting in some sort of prison arrangement being mocked by David and a meal being had
The beauty of the gospel is that we are invited into a banquet with God while the enemy looks on unable to touch us
Does it always feel like this? Certainly not.
But these are all pictures of the activity of God in the world

The verbal placing together of “you prepare” and “before me” suggests the intimacy of the Host and guest (see v. 1)

***
QUOTES
Richard Foster - “God becomes a reality when he becomes a necessity.”
Dark ravines make God a necessity
It may be physical suffering, financial issues, loss of a job, a father who abandoned you literally or emotionally, a spouse who betrayed you, feelings of worthlessness, an addictive habit or a loved one with an addictive habit. It may be anxiety or depression over the state of national or international affairs.
BIG CONCEPTS
The journey from the dark ravine to guest at a banquet
If you are in the dark ravine, recognize who the shepherd is
The God who is with you
The God who is defending you
The God who is guiding you
If you are at the table, recognize who the Host is
The God who is welcoming you
The God who is cleaning you
The God who is blessing you
Taste and see that He is Good
There is not better to be found elsewhere
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